5 tips to do/film professional interviews
Being well prepared for an interview is half of the success already. If you think that writing your questions and setting up date and place is enough, I’ll prove you wrong in this article. I’ll give you the best tips for preparing and executing an interview, either with a stranger or a celebrity.
First of all, I want to tell a bit of my interview experience. I’ve filmed over 300 interviews and I’ve tried many different approaches. In this acrticle, I give you my best tips to save you a lot of time and effort.
Watch as many interviews of an interviewee as you can before you even start writing the questions. Notice what kind of questions they are interested in and watch for questions that repeat in interviews. Also give attention to surroundings and shooting angles. Your interviewee might have done a lot of interviews already, try to make it more interesting for them by creating something new – with questions/surrounding/shooting angles.
2. PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR SHOES
You might have it all figured out in your head but the person you’re interviewing doesn’t know what is or what will be going on. You have to explain every single step, everything you do and more importantly why you’re doing it – adding a sort of sense into technical terms which not everybody might understand. For instance, instead of just saying: ‘I’m setting up the camera now, give me a minute.’ followed by a minute of silence where your subject is already thinking about what they’ll have for dinner.
You could say instead: ‘The light in this room is really great and it will look much better in the video, so let me just make this happen by setting it up this way… yeah this is great… looks perfect.’ This way you add up time, so before you finish the sentence, you’re already setting up the camera. And then you tell your subject they look great which is very important.
Most of us think we don’t look good on camera
Especially when we cannot see ourselves during filming. So your interviewee can get pretty nervous before the camera and it’s a good idea to show them exactly how they look. You can take a screenshot of them and show them, adding your comment about how they look – in your opinion [they might say they look horrible]. They also want to know what exactly will you film – full body or just face etc.
If you’re setting up more things than just a video camera, you can simply use some ice breakers. Try to make them smile/laugh. Tell them some funny facts about the city you’re in or tell them you’ve seen them in this and that interview and you really liked it because… – this will also show that you came prepared and you probably won’t ask them same old questions.
You can also mention a certain show you’ve seen where they did something funny – make them remember it and laugh at it again.
Try to avoid exaplaining the technical stuff or commenting on different kinds of lights that you’re using. They probably have no idea what you’re talking about and this won’t make them feel more relaxed.
You can watch this interview with bass player Jerry Meehan, currently with Robbie Williams
The part where you tell your interviewee where this interview takes place and when, should also include what you want to use it for. It’s fair to say why you want to do it and what you want to achieve by it. Saying that you only want more popularity on Youtube thanks to them is not a good start. Actually if this is your actual reason, then you don’t have to read this article because I’m writing it for real professionals not Youtube view-counters.
You’re the director
Before the actual start of the interview, you should do some directing. Meaning, you have to explain your interviewee what is going to happen now. You might have sent them a sheet with information regarding basic questions, purpose of the video, length… but have in mind – these people are very busy, these people talk to many other people on a daily basis and these people don’t have time to read/remember your sheet with information. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, don’t forget the second tip – put yourself in their shoes – they expect that you will tell them everything right before you start shooting. So do that.
4. CONFIDENCE IN YOUR DECISIONS
On the other hand, some people/especially artists might also have ideas about how to do this interview. For instance, they could tell you that in the other corner there’s a better light, so maybe we should go there instead. If they are musicians, for instance, of course they might also give point about quality of sound. Try to prepare yourself for this by coming up with good answers and good attitude.
You have to be confident about your decisions and you have to show that you already gave thought to every possibility and you chose the best one. Replying by technical one liners comes with experience so if you’re not sure that you can explain your choice technically, then just be confident and don’t even start thinking about the other corner.
Be a pro
The interviewee has to feel that he’s in the hands of a professional. This way he will also be confident that this interview won’t end as a disaster. But again, all this has to be the result of preparation. Before the interview, try to think about light and different angles in every room you enter. This way it will be easy for you to decide on it in few seconds during the actual interview. And you will stand by your decision. Even if you don’t have experience, you can prepare yourself by thinking about every possible scenario.
I love digital but in this case, I stand the opinion that you should print the questions you want to ask and have them in front of you on paper. It will also show, you have put in time and effort – to put it in some kind of design and printed it nicely. Have 1 copy also for them so you can give it to them at the end of interview. In this copy, write also your name and contact details somewhere visible so they can contact you easily if needed. And of course there’s more chance they’ll remember your name.
Avoid questions with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. You might have seen your interviewee in other interview and they talked and talked but it might be the questions that made them talk.
You never know what day they’re having, maybe they’re tired or just didn’t talk much and they need a reason. The question of this type: ‘Do you like this city?’ The answer: ‘Yes, it’s cool.’ That’s it! That’s one question. As long as you don’t plan to have 100 questions, your interview will end in 5 minutes!
I don’t wanna tell you what you should ask instead because I want you to think about it. Write your questions and read them 20 times before you decide you really wanna ask that. What does this question holds, is it important? Will the answer be valuable for viewers?
Let’s say this is slightly better version of the question: ‘I don’t know how much you’ve seen from this city yet, but was there anything interesting for you?’
Who will watch this interview? What is your target audience? Make these questions in a way that your target market will be interested. Ice-breaker questions are ok but then get to the point as soon as you can.
The last tip that I give you about interviewing is my online course that teaches you and also teach you HOW TO teach others on speaking to the camera confidently. You can find it here.